Montserrat about an hour or so from Barcelona. I first took a subway, then a train, then a train with a cable, so the train would not go flying backwards down the mountain. Perched up high in some very strange rock formations this monastery was looming above me somewhere. The slow moving train inched its way up and we climbed higher and higher. Winding up the hill, the speed started to increase and the valley below opened up in all directions. We arrived at last and me and ten thousand other people dashed out of the train and tried to get into the basilica to hear the boys choir. It was tight and a bit uncomfortable as I seemed to move into the basilica on no will of my own, the crowd directing my every move. Once the boys started to sing the crowd seemed to dissolve with the sound of beautiful voices. Outside the hike I took was both invigorating and a bit challenging. Once I reached the end of the trail I had a view of the monastery below and that of the valley even further down. It was a great peaceful moment that I enjoyed, all alone, cool breeze, for almost 50 min.
Before the hike, ready to go!
Back in Barcelona: My own personal butler, checking up on me.
My private view up high on the side of the mountain. The monastery below.
Danko my hosts dog, that I wanted to take home with me. He was checking up on me to make sure my stay was good. Above him is part of the facade of Sagrada familia. Top is Casa Batilo
Just one of the many parks and green areas of Barcelona. The people enjoying the weather, park benches with the young and old just relaxing and enjoying a beautiful day. As I wandered around this city, I saw people of all walks of life. The expressions were engaged and purposeful or just serene and relaxed. I walked all over this city and even as my feet grew tired, I marched on. Why? Every corner and every street was interesting to me. People eating and drinking, laughing and smiling. Lots of dogs on leashes scampering in parks or along a busy road. Wine being drunk by smartly dressed young men and women as well as old couples doing their late afternoon ritual. I really like this city.
Gaudi, well... I have already gone gaga so now another look on one of the main reasons for coming to Barcelona. This is on the roof top of Casa Batillo. The strange white looking thing is an organic inspired chimney that Gaudi used to make an otherwise boring or utilitarian looking object into a thing of beauty. The shimmering tiles were like scales of some sleeping creature that would soon awaken. The curving teal tiles like a spine or ridge of the lizards back, slithering over the roof line, and at the same time becoming the roof it self.
Casa Delfin: This place was the first spot I ate on recommendation from my great hosts I stayed with. After looking at the daily specials, and not seeing any lamb as recommended by my hosts, I asked, "What is good?" The waiter pointed to "Fish soup". Well, being from the desert.... it did not at all sound good. But I said, when in Rome, oh I was in Barcelona, so when in Barcelona do as the locals do. I did, and it was fantastic!
Winding around the Market in the Gothic quarter I saw fish stalls, fruit stands and meat stands. Just walking around made me hungry. The quality of the food was apparent, as was the pride and enthusiasm of each of the vendors. Smiling at me as I walked by, I became more and more accustomed to the strong fish and meat smells. I had enough, I had to eat at this place! Again with recommendations by my hosts, I tried to find a restaurant they suggested. Well on the corner with a large, u shaped wooden bar, and many small wooden tables I sat down and started to order. My limited spanish was very little help, as I did not need to find the bathroom, or describe where I was from as I would normally do when speaking my adopted language. I started with vino tinto, or red wine. That was easy, but now for some food. I decided on a tactic of pointing at different tapa's on the menu. The bartender sent my order to the kitchen, and then started to carve some cured ham. What I ended up with was the picture above. The ham is on the right, with bread spread with olive oil and tomato sauce in the middle, with grilled squid in olive oil and sea salt on the left. What a great meal, and three very different tastes.
Do you like chocolate? Well I do and another recommendation was Cacao Sampaka. In the upper Ramblas area it was beyond belief. Rows of chocolate bars, drops, and a wide assortment of chocolate with different percentages of coco. In the back was the real surprise. A small restaurant with a bar that served the most amazing thing, hot, thick, drinkable chocolate! The intense smell and taste as the "Cocao Azteca" hit my taste buds was overwhelming, and satisfying. It truly was a one of a kind treat!
I made my way out of the depths of the subway, which by the way is one of the easiest to navigate in Europe in my opinion, and up towering above and behind the trees was Gaudi's masterpiece, Sagrada Famila. It is still 20-30 years before they "think" it might be done. The facade is like one big carving out of wax or some other substance resembling nothing like any other church in the world. Inside as I was walking under its tree branch like columns I noticed all forms of nature, and it is nature that Gaudi works from. As I navigated the forest I gazed up in wonder. Was this some futuristic alien designed place of worship? Could this actually be alive? Perhaps it was a living, breathing space craft from another world. This was worth the flight over here, it is truly that amazing.
Walking around this park with all of the strange and interesting designs, patterns and unique use of tile, one can see the strange world of Gaudi unfold as unreal as something a child may have made. A closer look will have you astonished at the detail, but still leave you feeling you are in an altered world!